Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hold The Champagne

It just wasn't going to happen in Philadelphia.

The baseball season will go at least one more game. Chase Utley was once again the spark for the Phillies as he set the tone in the bottom of the first inning with a 3 run homer off A.J. Burnett. Before that ball reached the leftfield stands, you just knew tonight would not be the night for the Yankees or A.J. Burnett.

Now it's Utley who's auditioning for the role of "Mr. November" over Alex Rodriquez. Utley went on to hit a solo shot in the 7th inning giving him a record tying 5 round trippers in a World Series.

Burnett had pitched lights out in Game 2, the Yankees' first win of the Series which greatly changed the momentum of the Series. But with the season Burnett had, you just had the feeling that he would not get 2 quality starts in a row on the game's biggest stage.

Joe Girardi could have started Chad Gaudin and used Game 5 as a throw away game. Going against Cliff Lee neither really stood a chance. But that's all hindsight now.

As much as Girardi has been criticized this postseason, what about Charlie Manuel. So far Girardi's decision to go with a 3 man rotation has been brilliant. All 13 of the Yankees postseason games, their starter had gone 6 or more innings. And the Yankees are 1 win away from a World Series title.

Why wouldn't Manuel give his best pitcher and, besides Utley, his best player a chance to start 3 games? Throwing Joe Blanton out in Game 4 was almost like giving that game away. Why not Lee in Game 4 and then a possible Game 7. If Manuel went with Lee in Game 4, Philadelphia could very easily be up 3-2 in this series.

Throwing Blanton in Game 5 would have made much more sense. You knew the Phillies were set to explode. With Burnett pitching, that means you have Jose Molina and Burnett batting 8 and 9 in the lineup, 2 for sure outs. Last night was a wasted start for Lee.

Even worse, Manuel was determined to leave his ace in for the entire game. The Phillies led 6-2 after 6 innings. They led 8-2 after 7 innings. And Manuel left Cliff Lee in the game! What does that tell you about Manuel's confidence in his bullpen. Like Game 1, you could see Lee start to wear out around the 100 pitch count. And as Lee stayed in to start the 8th, the Yankees's bats awoke and jumped on Lee for 3 runs in the 8th.

So Lee went 7+ and threw 112 pitches. Now, he definitely won't start a Game 7 and if the Phillies need him for relief, he'll have to come in off of only 2 days rest.

Burnett owned it after last night's horrible performance saying, "I let 25 people down. I let a whole city down."

But before it was all said and done, NY had runners on the corners with no one out and Derek Jeter representing the tying run in the 9th. Jeter is "Mister Clutch" and he really had a chance to pile on his legacy. That double play was huge! And it let the Phillies survive to live another day. Maybe that was the ideal time to bunt.

So the positives for the Yankees after last night's loss?

1. They most likely won't have to face Cliff Lee again.
2. They went to Philadelphia and won 2 of 3.
3. The Yankees were down 8-2 after 7. They could have easily rolled over and died. But like championship teams, they hung in there and battled. They got to Cliff Lee and they were in position to tie the game in the 9th.
4. If it goes 7, the next 2 games are at home.
5. In the last 3 games, Mariano Rivera has made 13 total pitches. So he'd probably be ready for a possible 9 out save in Game 6.
6. Ryan Howard has lost his swing.
7. Again, if there is a Game 7, Philadelphia really doesn't have pitcher. Cole Hamels wants the season over and has been nothing like his dominant self from last year. The Phillies are left to start rookie J.A. Happ on the road in Game 7 of the World Series.

Tomorrow night's Game 6 is a dream matchup for MLB. Phillies/Yankees in the Bronx. Pedro vs. Pettitte. Can it really get better than this?

One question I have. Does Girardi intentionally throw at Utley the way the Phillies did to A-Rod? Probably not. I don't think he would stoop to the Phillies' level?

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